Thursday, August 03, 2006

Making Sense about Deer Scents

© By Othmar Vohringer

Commercial Deer Scents
Two basic types of commercial scent are marketed: Attractant scents and masking scents. Attractant scents come in two varieties, sexual attractant scent and curiosity attractant scent.

Sexual attractant scents contain doe or buck urine interlaced with various glandular scents and hormones.

Curiosity attractant scents contain plain doe or buck urine. Others may contain different deer food scents. Such scents can be interlaced with urine and other scents such as vanilla, anisette, peanut and herbs. Although these scents are not a deer food their smell is pleasant to the deer and appeals to their natural curiosity.

Masking scents contain a wide variety of substances intended to cover up human odor. Most cover scents imitate the smell of deer and food sources or other animals such as coyote, skunk and raccoon.

The value of the scents is a controversial topic. There have been no scientific studies to prove or disprove the merit of scents, but many accomplished hunters will attest to their effectiveness. However using scent to attract deer is not a strategy that will work by itself but is rather on small part of a hunting strategy. In order for scent attractant to work it has to be applied where deer are traveling at the time the hunter intends to hunt a given area. No deer will make a long detour just to investigate a scent.

Deer Smells and Scents
Honed by the constant struggle for survival, the whitetail's senses of smell, sight and hearing presents a formidable challenge for hunters. In the day-to-day struggle to survive, the whitetail deer’s nose may be its best protection. Few animals have a better sense of smell than the whitetail. They can detect odors much better and from considerably longer distances than humans. A large portion of the whitetail's brain is devoted to odor reception and interpretation, and its nasal chamber can concentrate odors so they're more identifiable. A deers sense of smell is directional, meaning a deer cannot only identify the source of the smell but also the approximate distance and direction the smell comes from. It is assumed by scientists that a deer even can tell how long ago a deer has urinated just by smelling the urine.

Scents in Nature
Weather conditions affect how well deer detect scents. Steady breezes carry odors long distances, especially in flat, open country. Gusty winds disperse odors, making it hard for deer to locate the source. Dead calm conditions limit the distance at which they can detect intruders. Warming and cooling air can move scents toward or away from deer. In the morning, warming air carries scent uphill. In the evening, cooling air carries it downhill. Humid conditions, including a light drizzle, greatly improve a deer's ability to smell, but heavy rain washes odors from the air. And it's usually harder for deer to detect the odor of a hunter above the ground than one at ground level.

How to Use Deer Scents?
When using deer scent, you don’t want to confuse it but give the nose what it expects. Whether you’re after a buck or a doe, the right scent at the right time can put more animals in your shooting lane. Many hunters don’t clearly understand how to use deer scent and often have disappointing experience when using scents. They must realize that using sexual-based scents too early will chase away does and bucks. The whole idea of using deer scents is to bring deer towards your stand. The use of scents should help you position a deer so to allow you to draw the bow, and make a good shot. Scents can really help, but you have to learn to use the right scent at the right time. Besides using the wrong scent at the wrong time of the season is a fact that many hunters use too much scent. Read the label on the bottle and if it says, two drops then don’t empty the content of the bottle in one place. Too much scent will spook deer away. Deer know what they smell like at what time of the season and they also know how strong the smell is. Therefore deer know perfectly well that is very wrong when they smell another deer that by smell appears to be the size of and elephant..

How to Choose the Right Deer Scent?
Doe-in-heat urine is most effective during the actual rut but can actually hurt your chances of scoring if used too early in the season. Why? For one thing, you want does to come your direction while you’re hunting. Bucks are often nearby, often slipping along secondary trails, paralleling the doe’s movements. If a herd of does pick up the scent of a doe in heat they will vacate the area. Does that are not in heat learn to avoid the rutting bucks.

Buck-in-Rut Scents
Except for the brief period of the rutting season when whitetail bucks are actively seeking does big bucks are very reclusive animals. Things change quite a bit once testosterone starts to flow in them. However, bucks in your hunting area won’t magically go into rut just because you pour a few drops of doe-in-heat scent on the forest floor. Of course, you might get lucky, and a buck that’s not rutting might react positively to a scent. But more often than not, even the most dominant buck won’t get his buttons pushed by the scent of a doe in heat, until his instincts tell him the time is right. Again, influencing deer movement with scents is all about using the right scent at the right time. When that right time is will be revealed to you by observing deer behavior in your hunting area. Are the bucks still together in a bachelor group? Have they started to separate and fight with each other? Have the bucks started to follow the does around? Answer these questions and you will know what scent to use.

Scent For The Early Hunting Season
During the early season (roughly from September through early October in most parts of North America), hunters should play to the whitetail’s most basic instincts: Security, curiosity, and hunger. General deer attractants are what you want to use. The same applies to food-based scent as to sexual attractants. If the deer know that there are no other deer the size of and elephant then they also know that there are no acorns the size of watermelons. The same holds true for food scent. Using apple scent where there isn’t an apple tree around for miles defeats the purpose and will scare the deer away. Also there are no cornfields in the middle of a pine forest. Use food scents where the food you mimic exists and at the time it is available to the deer. For example use corn scent in and around cornfields and when the corn is ripe.

Personally I do not and never have used food attractant scent. My point is this. A particular food is either available to the deer or it is not and if it is then what’s the point in using that food scent. On the other hand if that food is not available to the deer then it pretty much is useless to fake the existence of the food with scent. Some hunters use food scent as cover scent. Personally I do not want to smell like an apple or a corncob and risk that a deer detects me. Besides apple don’t grow in pine trees and neither does corn.

Examples of How to Use Scents Properly
General scent attractants can be used to not only bring a deer in close, but to position it for the optimum shot! Here’s how to do it. We’ll use one example, and you’ll see how to adapt it to any type of terrain. Let’s say you know of a thick holding area (the classic in many areas is the wooded swamp or thicket) near a good feeding area (like a corn or other crop field). You know the deer travel back and forth between the two areas, but in scouting, you might find 5-8 different trails they use at different times. Obviously, you can’t be sitting on every trail at the same time. So you might pick a stand location somewhere in the middle, and lay down a scent trail that will help funnel deer right past you, no matter which trail they start out on. You’ll use a footpad or drag rag (both are available from sporting goods stores or you can make them easy yourself).

First, slip quietly down toward the swamp or thicket from the open area. Notice which way the wind is blowing, so you can bring the deer to you on the upwind side. Begin at one end of the thick cover. Apply the scent to the pad or drag rag, and lay down a scent trail that cuts across the various deer trails and angles up, out of the cover, to the upwind side of you stand. Add scent to the footpad or drag rag occasionally, increasing the amount, as you get closer to your stand. Go over to the other side of the thick cover and do the same thing. Now, you have two scent trails, both of which cut across a number of deer trails leading out of the swamp or thicket toward the food source. Your scent trails are set so that you will be sitting downwind of any deer that follows them. You have increased your chances of steering deer in your direction dramatically. To finish setting the trail, squirt a concentration of the scent onto a tree or brush about four feet of the ground. This scent station will stop the deer and position them for a good shot. Pick a spot that, should the deer pause to sniff on the scent station, will be in a clear shooting lane and broadside from you.

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1 comment:

Ivan T. said...

Dear Othmar

I write you to say hi and tell you that I enjoy very much reading your web pages. Also I would like to ask your permission to translate the article “Making Sense about Deer Scents” into Spanish and put it in my blog.

Thank you in advance and best regards.

Good hunting

Ivan Takahashi Bancovitch

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